By Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom
Somewhere lost in all the messaging about healthy living is the one about effort level. You know, how much effort it takes to make and sustain a health-promoting change. Many people view healthy, fit people as somehow just magically turning out that way. Must be good genes, or good luck – or some combination of the two – is a popular theme. But while we see the “end product” of a healthy person, what is less known is the consistent effort that goes into maintaining health. Mindful eating, focus on physical activity, and effective stress management are all a daily part of the routine.
This whole concept came to me the other day in reading an honest insight from the Pulitzer-prize winning author Anna Quindlen. She wrote about how difficult and challenging writing is for her, what an effort it is to just sit down and write. While people might have an image of writers as having words and ideas just flowing out easily (this is a “job”?), this is not the case, as this award-winning writer points out. (Full disclosure here: She’s one of my favorite nonfiction and fiction writers in America!)
This concept connects exactly the same way to healthy living. We see healthy, fit people and simply assume it’s easy for them. And, as studies continue to show, it’s hard for everyone!
So don’t be surprised when you try to change a habit – and it’s tough. Change your mind-set to understand that health-promoting changes ARE hard to make and sustain. That’s why choosing one or two things to work on is the best goal. Making a small change every day is not easy. And be patient: It takes about 3 weeks to change a habit. After the first week (which you must accept just “slugging through”) it becomes easier over time, until it’s incorporated into your daily routine!
What health promoting changes have you made? I’d love to know.